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Colin Montgomerie qualifies for US Open

Colin Montgomerie row continues to rumble on

Jamie Spence, chairman of the European Tour's tournament committee, says Colin Montgomerie cannot give back the world ranking points that earned him a place in this month's U.S. Open in controversial circumstances.

Briton Montgomerie squeezed into the second major of the year by returning to the world's top 50 as of May 30, helped by ranking points he accumulated at the Indonesia Open in March when he came under fire for breaching golf's rules.

Although Montgomerie was cleared by a tournament official in Indonesia and no further action was taken last week by Spence's tournament committee, compatriot Gary Evans has since made newspaper accusations against Montgomerie over the incident.

"You cannot disqualify somebody after the event, nor can he disqualify himself and give back his world ranking points," Spence told reporters on Wednesday, the day before playing the Wales Open at Celtic Manor.

"Colin didn't know the position of his ball well enough at the time (in Indonesia).

"I think he was angry and felt (because of the lightning) he should have been called in earlier."

After lightning forced play to be suspended at the Indonesia Open, Montgomerie failed to mark his ball before departing from the course, leaving it by a bunker.

It had gone when he returned the following day so he played from where he estimated the ball had been.

Television replays later indicated the Scot had played the ball roughly a foot from the original spot but he incurred no penalty and escaped disqualification.

"Coming back the next day, his playing partners (Thongchai Jaidee and Arjun Atwal) agreed where he should replace his ball and the referee concurred there was no penalty," added Spence.

"Jose Maria Zamora is a respected official but he made a mistake.

"Had one of our chief referees been there, there might have been a different conclusion. It was a minor breach of the rules."

After seeing video footage of the incident, Montgomerie agreed he had made an innocent mistake and decided to give his $40,000 prize money to the Tsunami Appeal.

A tournament committee meeting, chaired by Spence before the British Masters three weeks ago, decided to take no further action, although they were not totally satisfied with Montgomerie's behaviour.

Evans tried to take the matter further at a players' meeting at Wentworth last week before the start of the BMW Championship.

He has also called for Montgomerie to hand back his world ranking points from Jakarta, claiming the seven-times European number one had accepted his guilt by giving away his prize money.

However, the comments made by Evans in British newspapers infuriated European Tour executive director George O'Grady, who has demanded a full apology.

According to Spence, no apology has yet been made bhy Evans.

"I didn't expect Gary to apologise," he said. "I don't want his apology. It's a free world, but I think the timing of his comments was very poor. I'm disappointed."

Montgomerie, who is playing this week in Wales, expressed his astonishment the matter had dragged on.

"At the Forest of Arden tournament committee meeting, I thought it was dead; at the players' meeting, I was thought it was dead," he said. "Hopefully this is third time lucky.

Montgomerie added he had "not been happy with myself because the ball obviously was not in the same place," saying that was the sole reason for his gesture in giving away his winnings.

"It was no admission of guilt," he insisted.

The U.S. Open is being played at Pinehurst in North Carolina from June 16-19.


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